The term information and communication technology (ICT) is used in numerous policy and strategy documents, such as the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan and 2021-25 Education Sector Plan, although no definition of the term is provided. There was no reference of the term education technology (EdTech) in government documents.
The 2014 Education Bill defines distance education as “a form of education in which students and teachers are not regularly in the presence of each other but communicate with each other in writing, by print or by electronic or similar means”. According to the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan, Open/ Innovative Schooling is a “parallel or complimentary facet of the education system, whereby open, distance, and online methods of education delivery and interaction are leveraged to reach learners who due to geographical, social, and/or economic hindrances, cannot attend regular physical school”.
Constitution and laws: There is no ICT Act. The 2016 Telecommunications Act provides for universal access and universal services to public telecommunications networks and services, which include, at a minimum, universal access to high quality public telephone services (Article 43). Telecommunications are defined to include “the transmission, emission or reception of signals, writing, signs, text, pulses, images, sounds, or other intelligence of any kind, or any combination thereof, by way of any wired or wireless medium or technology, but does not include broadcasting”.
The 2014 Education Bill stipulates that one of the objectives of the education system is the “ understanding of the role and related skills of science and technology in society” (Article 3). The Bill also includes a specific section on distance learning and continuing education (Part VI – B), which provide for the Minister of Education to implement distance learning programmes at the pre-primary, primary, secondary or tertiary level and regulate such programmes (Article 97).
According to Guyana’s 1980 Constitution (as amended in 2016), “it is the duty of the State to provide education that would include curricula designed to reflect the cultural diversities of Guyana and disciplines that are necessary to prepare students to deal with social issues and to meet the challenges of the modem technological age (Article 27).
Policies, plans and strategies: The integration of ICT in Guyana’s education system is supported in many policy and strategy documents.
The 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan provides the national framework for leveraging ICT for education transformation, with a vision towards “an ICT empowered modern, equitable and responsive education system for the transformational development of Guyanese citizens”. To realize this vision, the policy defines five strategic goals, which include 1) improving leadership and management procedures across the system through the adoption of digital tools, 2) enabling transformational teaching and learning practices, 3) ensuring that all educators have ICT capacity, 4) contributing to lifelong learning by teaching with ICT, and 5) increasing access to, and effective use of, digital devices, Internet, learning platforms and resources. To incite this shift, the government envisions the development of a "digital culture" across the education system that promotes the meaningful use of ICT for the effective management and delivery of education.
The 2021-25 Education Sector Plan similarly supports the expansion of ICT in the education system, through the introduction of digital literacy programmes, enhancement of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education, review and revision of the ICT teacher competency framework, and use of tablets as part of the teaching-learning process in 28 Primary schools. This expanded on ICT goals set in the 2014-18 Education Sector Plan, which aimed to improve access to ICT and integrate it throughout the teaching and learning process.
The 2006 ICT4D Guyana National Strategy initially aimed to accelerate Guyana’s economic and social development through the use of ICT in key sectors (including education). The National ICT Vision is that: “All citizens, businesses and public institutions in Guyana will have the opportunity to participate in the information and knowledge society in order to accelerate national development and prosperity.” Specific objectives include improving the delivery of, and access by all citizens to Government and other public services (including education), ensuring access to reliable ICT at the lowest sustainable cost so that all Guyanese have the opportunity of participating in the information and knowledge society, and developing the necessary policies, laws and regulations that support the sustainable development of the ICT sector. Education-specific objectives include the development and implementation of policies to integrate ICT into the education and training system and the implementation of distance education.
Moreover, one of the objectives of the 2021 National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana is to ensure the equitable provision of digital infrastructure to vulnerable communities to support learning in times of crises.
The 2022 Support for Education Recovery and Transformation Project, which is co-authored by Ministry of Education and the International Development Bank, also includes objectives for improving ICT infrastructure in schools.
Digital competency frameworks: The Ministry of Education has developed an ICT Competency Framework for teachers in accordance with the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework, which the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan aims to update. The Policy additionally supports the development of a digital competency framework for students and citizens which aims to ensure that all citizens can develop the digital competencies required to participate and contribute to the society and the economy.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: Many policies and strategies outlined above were developed by the government in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education system. The development of the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan was underscored by the “new normal” induced by COVID-19, highlighting the importance of ICT in education policies that address existing gaps and allocate the use of digital technologies across the education system. Similarly, the 2021-25 Education Sector Plan states that the pandemic resulted in the acceleration of government plans to integrate ICT into the teaching-learning process, providing the opportunity to re-imagine learning and develop resilient pedagogy that ensures the facilitation of learning continuity during times of crisis.
The 2021 National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana was introduced with the objective of identifying risk reduction measures for national and subnational education authorities to prevent, prepare for, and mitigate crises, following the outbreak of COVID-19. This included both access and quality objectives such as the development of digital infrastructure to reach the most vulnerable communities, improvement of teaching and learning materials to be continuously available following an emergency, systematic training of teachers on adapted pedagogical approaches, and the development of alternative curriculum and assessment strategies that fill learning gaps following an emergency.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The 2013 Non-Academic Standards stipulate that all school buildings be equipped with electricity (solar- or hydro- or fuel generated). The government additionally supports the provision of energy for schools in remote and under-served areas based on cooperation agreements with key governmental and private institutions in the 2021 National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana. Similarly, the 2022 Support for Education Recovery and Transformation Project aims to provide schools with essential services (including water and energy).
Computers and devices: The provision of technology devices for schools is supported in several government documents. The Non-Academic Standards provide for computers in information technology laboratories and radio sets for schools in Deep Riverain and Hinterland Areas. The 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan aims to ensure effective access to and use of digital devices, learning platforms and digital resources through the combination of computer labs and Smart Classrooms at primary level and the enhancement of classroom use of digital devices at secondary level. Smart Classrooms are a complete digital education package consisting of Samsung tablets, televisions, a server and related software. The 2021 National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana supports the equitable provision of digital infrastructure to vulnerable communities to support learning in times of crises and the provision of radio sets to Hinterland schools where infrastructure is not sufficient. Subsidies will be provided for the most vulnerable students from hinterland and riverine areas for the purchase of data/internet devices under the coordination of the Management Information System Unit and Regional Education Departments. The 2022 Support for Education Recovery and Transformation Project additionally supports the provision of devices and learning materials to schools, which includes a technology kit (interactive screen and projector) for classrooms for Grades 2-6, digital devices for students (Grades 2-6), and laptops for teachers and principals.
The government has also launched several one-to-one technology initiatives, such as ‘one tablet per learner’, One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) and One Laptop Per Family.
In 2022, 300 primary school teachers and 125 secondary school teachers were equipped with laptops and computing devices, while 11,000 tablets and flash drives with learning materials were provided to students with limited access to the internet. The Ministry of Education handed over pre-loaded electronic tablets to grades 10 and 11 students enrolled at three secondary schools in Region Nine (Upper Takutu – Upper Essequibo) and several children with special needs as a response to the needs of students that were set back tremendously following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the pre-primary level, the government aims to review and coordinate with the ‘one tablet per learner’ project –by providing tablets to nursery students as part of the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan.
The One Laptop Per Family programme was initially launched in January of 2011 with the aim of providing ‘at-home’ ICT to tens of thousands of Guyanese families. In 2021, the program was reintroduced “to ensure that every child has the opportunity to not only be connected to the hub but has the instrument through which they can pursue their studies”.
The One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) initiative was launched in 2016 to contextualise and implement teachers’ professional development in ICT in education.
Internet connectivity: Several government documents support the provision of internet access in schools. One of the objectives of the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan is to support the implementation of a national educational internet network to provide high quality internet connectivity to nursery, primary and secondary schools across various regions. The 2021 National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana further aims to develop cooperation agreements with key governmental and private institutions for the provision of internet in remote/under-served areas, in addition to providing subsidies for the most vulnerable students from Hinterland and Riverine areas for the purchase of data and internet. The provision of Internet connectivity in schools is also supported in the 2022 Support for Education Recovery and Transformation Project, while the 2006 ICT4D Guyana National Strategy similarly aims for all schools to have access to the internet through the use of broadband technology. The 2021-25 Education Sector Plan additionally aims to develop standards for the use of assistive technology devices.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The provision of distance education is supported in several government documents. The 2014 Education Bill has a dedicated section for distance education, making provisions for distance learning programmes at the pre-primary, primary, secondary or tertiary level. Distance learning is additionally supported in the 2006 ICT4D Guyana National Strategy and 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan. The 2021-25 Education Sector Plan further aims to develop and expand open access and distance learning programmes, including the expansion and enhancement of the Learning Channel to support learning across all levels and extend coverage across Guyana. Additional objectives include the establishment of an online university, promotion of e-learning for hinterland students, and institution of a policy to address flexible programmes and learning modalities. Finally, both the National Center of Educational Resources Development and the Cyril Potter College of Education should ensure that distance learning is adopted and implemented – when needed – following a disaster. The Ministry of Education has additionally been implementing an Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) programme for Grades 1-3 since 2006, which was reviewed in 2017.
During the COVID-19 school closures in 2020, the Ministry of Education planned to ensure learning continuity through online, television and radio resources, in addition to the distribution of learning materials for students with special needs learners primarily at the nursery and primary levels. There was no COVID-19 Education Response Plan official government document found.
One of the objectives of the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan is to infuse and enact digital competencies in and across the curriculum for teaching, learning and assessment. This includes the definition of a framework for students' digital competencies, integration of digital competencies across subject areas and grades, and implementation strategies to support the adoption of the enriched curriculum. The policy additionally aims to ensure that all citizens can develop the digital competencies required to participate and contribute to the society and the economy through the definition of a digital citizenship competency framework and the implementation of online/blended learning opportunities for parents and the community. The 2006 ICT4D Guyana National Strategy further supports the adoption of a standardized ICT curricula across all training institutions and the promotion of basic ICT skills workshops for all students with the objective for all primary, secondary and university graduates to be ICT literate.
The promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is highlighted in the country’s 2021-25 Education Sector Plan, which aims to ensure that STEM is embedded in the teaching-learning process and that digital literacy programmes are developed at primary and secondary schools through the use of robotics and other ICT tools to enhance the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). The Plan builds on the CARICOM Human Resource Development (HRD) strategy which identifies key competencies needed for the 21st century, with students attaining passes in STEM subjects expected, at a minimum, to be enabled to become productive citizens, contributing meaningfully to the development of the country. There is no gender-specific objective.
The Professional Standards for Teachers articulate a clear vision for technology integration in the school community, with teachers expected to encourage the use of technology, telecommunications and information systems to enrich curriculum, teaching, learning, and assessment. The 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan further aims to ensure that all educators have the capacity and opportunity to effectively use ICT tools and resources in their professional practices by enhancing initial and ongoing professional development that teaches educators how to use, teach with, and deliver lessons through ICT. This includes updating the ICT competency standards for teachers, integrating these standards in the initial teacher training curricula and teacher professional development courses, and implementing professional development opportunities based on online and blended education modalities. Similarly, the 2021-25 Education Sector Plan supports the review and revision of the ICT teachers’ competency framework and the development of digital literacy programmes for primary teachers, while the 2021 National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana includes objectives for teacher capacity building in ICT and alternative education methodologies with the aim to equip teachers with the needed skills to continue teaching. Finally, the 2006 ICT4D Guyana National Strategy makes provisions for the development of continuous ICT training for teachers at all levels and relevant to subjects.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Guyana does not have a privacy or data protection law in place. An impending data privacy law for Guyana was announced in September 2020 and thereafter, an RFP for drafting the law was published in November 2020. The 2018 Cybercrime Act includes a provision on the illegal acquisition of data (Article 6), although there is no mention of education institutions.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
There is no provision for online abuse or cyberbullying in the 2018 Cybercrime Act.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) leads policies and strategies that aim to integrate ICT in the education system of Guyana (including the implementation of the 2021 ICT in Education Policy and Master Plan), although there is no dedicated department for ICT.
The National Center of Educational Resources Development (NCERD) is responsible of providing continuous capacity building in ICT and alternative education methodologies to equip teachers with the needed skills to continue teaching. As part of the NCERD, the Innovative Technology, Science and Special Needs units were established in recognition of the need to strengthen service delivery in these subject areas.
The Ministry of Public Telecommunications assists with ICT infrastructure development in schools.
The 2014 Education Bill stipulates that every student of the school should refrain from carrying, using or being in possession of prohibited electronic devices in the school or within the school compound (Article 7). In 2007, the Ministry of Education issued a circular (Circular No. 7/2007) to all schools’ administrators informing them of the prohibition of cell phone use during classroom sessions and student assemblies. The circular additionally states that “any student found using a cell phone or any similar gadget or device, during class sessions or student assembly shall be suspended for a minimum of three days in the first instance”. Schools were also mandated by the circular to display ‘No Cell Phone Usage’ signs at prominent locations around the school plant.